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Glendale Unified School District of Los Angeles decided to monitor its middle and high school students' usage of social networking media in order to identify violence, drug use, bullying, truancy, weapons use, suicidal threats and other harmful behaviors.
The school district is spending $40,500, according to the New York Daily News, to have Geo Listening scan students' pages that use public settings.
After two students committed suicide last year, the schools are taking extra precautionary measures. “We think it’s been working very well,” said school district Superintendent Dick Sheehan. “It’s designed around student safety and making sure kids are protected.”
So far, all that has been discovered was a photo a student posted of a gun, but it ended up being fake. Although no discipline was administered, Sheehan reported that it was still a positive experience, saying, "We had to educate the student on the dangers,” and that it all ended well.
The company will be monitoring all students in the district over 13 years old who have public social media accounts, reports CNN. Accounts that have privacy settings set cannot be accessed, and students under 13 years old require parental permission to look over the page. Although the company does not have a list of student names, they use key words to search for problem areas and look for hints that link the students.
Many students and parents object to this new program, claiming that it is a terrible breach of privacy.
“We all know social media is not a private place, not really a safe place,” 16-year-old student Young Cho told the Los Angeles Times. “But it’s not the same as being in school. It’s students’ expression of their own thoughts and feelings to their friends. For the school to intrude in that area — I understand they can do it, but I don’t think it's right.”
The senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Lee Tien, further commented on the program, saying, "This is the government essentially hiring a contractor to stalk the social media of the kids. When the government -- and public schools are part of the government -- engages in any kind of line-crossing and to actually go and gather information about people away from school, that crosses a line.”
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons